When the cold winter wind starts whirling over the plains, Oklahomans know soup is the best prescription to warm you up. There are soups to help you cure a cold and soups to drink from a mug and keep your hands warm the whole time. There are even soups such as Dolly Parton's Cabbage soup to help slim you down. Maybe that's why January is National Soup Month.
Soups have long held a reputation for helping cure our ills and satisfy our cravings.
As a cook, I love to make a pot of soup. Sometimes it's a gathering of things including vegetables that are not going to stay at their refrigerated best, so I use them up. Other times, it is something my husband and I are craving.
Most soups are quite simple to make from just a few ingredients you probably have on hand. Chicken stock or broth and onions are probably the most basic things to keep around. Both provide foundations of flavor for building great soups. Vegetable stock is another, whether you have it in cube form or make it ahead for incorporating into a soup.
If kitchen storage space is an issue, you may want to opt for bouillon cubes.
They dissolve quickly in simmering water, but most are a little high in sodium content.
Be sure to avoid any stock or soup bases that contain MSG.
Another product I like to have on hand is V8 juice. It is a great addition to a number of soups if you need more liquid.
Canned tomatoes, whether petite diced, diced, stewed or whole, are packed with nutrients, including vitamin C and lycopene.
Carrots, celery and peppers are great soup ingredients to have in the fridge.
Dried and canned beans are another soup maker to have on hand.
The canned ones are handy if you have very little time to cook, but with a little planning the dried ones can be put to great use in soups. It is really basic and quite easy.
Frozen vegetables added to soups or stews are the next best thing to having fresh prepared vegetables on hand.
I'm sharing a recipe that can be made in minutes with a few common ingredients.
Tuscans are known as “bean-eaters,” and after you try this fast, delicious soup, you will be, too.
I'm also including an easy chicken and vegetable soup that comes together in a hurry.
I recommend it for anyone you may know who's feeling under the weather.
It won't make them well, but it will sure make them feel good to know you made something special for them.
Tuscan-Style Bean Soup
Makes 2 large servings.
1 carrot, diced or sliced
1 stalk celery, diced or sliced
½ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (14.5 ounce) cannellini beans or Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
4 leaves kale, stems removed, sliced in strips
Garnish each bowl with a few shavings of Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.
Saute carrot, celery and onion in olive oil until softened. Add rinsed and drained beans, broth and kale. Heat until bubbly and kale brightens. Serve hot with a few shavings of cheese.
Source: Sherrel Jones, adapted from longer versions
Sherrel's Feel Good Fast Chicken Vegetable Soup
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 (8 to 10 ounces) boneless skinless chicken breast, cut in ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
1 (14.5 ounces) can petite diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
Baby spinach leaves (optional)
Saute carrots, celery, onion and cubed chicken breast in olive oil until vegetables are softened and chicken is cooked through (8 to 10 minutes). Add pressed garlic and continue cooking and stirring constantly for about 2 minutes more. Add tomatoes and broth. Lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until soup is steaming hot. Ladle over baby spinach leaves if desired.
Cooking notes: Sometimes I add a tablespoon or more of finely grated fresh ginger root with the garlic to steam up this soup even more.